May 18, 2006

(++++) TOP DRAW-ER

Magic Painting. By the editors of Klutz. Chicken Socks/Klutz. $12.95.

Crayon Rubbings: A Bumpity Coloring Book. By the editors of Klutz. Chicken Socks/Klutz. $9.95.

Paper Stained Glass: Color-by-Number Art for your Windows. By Barbara Kane. Klutz. $19.95.

Paper Fashions. By the editors of Klutz. Klutz. $19.95.

     Kids young and old (that last category includes parents) can always find crafts projects that are fun to do among the many offerings from Klutz and its smaller-size, square-book sibling line, Kluck…err, Chicken Socks.  But not everything from Klutz involves making stuff – some projects involve coloring stuff.  Take Magic Painting, for instance.  It’s a book of hidden-design pictures for kids as young as age four – and of course it includes everything needed to make the pictures visible.   Remember the old-time “paint with water” pictures?  This book is the much-improved Chicken Socks version.  It comes with a brush and five watercolor paints – packaged so cleverly that, after you remove brush and paints, you have a tray in which to put water.  Just dip the brush in water, dab it in paint, sweep it across the page, and presto!  You’re an artist!  Not content with that cleverness level, the Klutzfolk offer special cut-out projects that kids can use for something more than mere decoration: cards, bookmarks, a mask, even jewelry.

     Kids who prefer crayons to paint will have a ball with Crayon Rubbings, which not only includes six crayons and a rainbow crayon brick but also provides plastic rubbing plates that provide the “bumpity” in the book’s subtitle.  The plates look a bit like firm, square bubble wrap.  Kids put a plate – there are several designs – under the part of a picture they want to color.  Rubbing a crayon over the paper colors the picture with a “bumpity” effect.  It’s really pretty cool – the ordinary-looking pictures of a house, snake, elephant, turtle and various weird alien creatures are anything but ordinary when colored this way.  Klutz even shows kids how to make their own rubbing patterns using various kinds of bumpy stuff.

     Older kids, ages eight and up, can try a far more complex and elegant form of coloring with the 12 special markers included in Barbara Kane’s Paper Stained Glass.  This is a really clever concept: each marker has a fine tip and a fat tip, and each tip contributes to a stained-glass look on the included plastic outline sheets.  Every sheet can be colored two different ways: flip it to the left for one set of colors or to the right for another.  For example, flip the “Dancing Dragon” to the left and follow the coloring instructions to create a red dragon on a yellow background; or flip it to the right to color the dragon green and the background blue.  The numbers make it easy to color the designs, but these pictures are not for the impatient: there are lots of numbers and lots of colors.  That’s why the finished plastic pictures look so attractive.  And they really do glow when light comes through them – though hanging them in direct sunlight will, after a while, cause the colors to fade.  A few projects even offer special ways to hang them, such as attractive frames for the Russian Horse and Bug Garden designs.

     For something else to do with paper, girls can make dresses, shoes, camisoles and much more with Paper Fashions, which includes patterned and solid papers – plus stencil shapes, ribbon, beads, sequins, glue, and some adorable teeny hangers on which to put your masterpieces.  As always, Klutz offers clear instructions for projects that are on the complicated side: stenciling, outlining, basic cutting, precise cutting, smoothing, trimming and decorating.  Kudos to Klutz for neatly solving the problem of inevitable errors: “If you make a mistake when cutting, don’t panic!  Consider using the results anyway.  Some of the coolest looks happen by accident.”  Girls need plenty of patience to follow all the instructions and suggestions here, but it’s worthwhile to do so: the clothes can be quite cute, and budding fashion designers could do much worse than starting with these concepts – and perhaps making a few fortuitous errors.

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